Police beat shakes Garden...
An icy wind whips down East 11th Street in New York City, forcing the hundreds of Police fans waiting in the line outside the Ritz to huddle together for warmth. Charlie, who has been standing here shivering for an hour, pulls his leather jacket tightly around him.
Charlie is the lead guitarist of a local rock band, and he's been to see the Police before. Just two years ago, he caught them at the CBGB club a couple of nights after his own band played there. A few months later, he saw the Police at the Bottom Line. Last year he had a balcony seat for their show at the 3,500 capacity Palladium Theater.
"Naw, I didn't buy a ticket to see the Police at Madison Square Garden last night," Charlie grumbles, his breath frosting in the air. "Twenty thousand seats is too big. Yeah, I'm sure they had no trouble selling the place out, but I just don't think it's worth seeing the Police from a seat way out in the ozone. They may be big on the charts, but they're still a concert and club act as far as I'm concerned. Not tonight
will be something," he smiles, as the line begins to move.
It's not easy to make the jump from auditorium to arena rock & roll, but the Police are trying. They're also trying hard not to alienate their fans. Can they play both ends against the middle? Police booking agent Ian Copeland (brother of drummer Stewart Copeland) thinks so.
"Sure, we played Madison Square Garden to prove something," Copeland admits. "New music has arrived. There is a whole new generation of rock fans, and they can fill a twenty thousand seat hall. If we came to New York and played a place like the Ritz, we'd have to book ourselves there for a month." The Police would also lose a lot of money, but Copeland doesn't bring that subject up.
"The night after we played the Garden we played the Ritz - a 1,500 seat club - to appease our fans who might resent the fact that we're playing the Garden now. A return to the roots."
But flexibility doesn't always make for great rock 7 roll. The night before the Ritz show, the Police hit Madison Square Garden for the first time, and got off to a shaky start. Although Sting's vocals and bass playing were precise and controlled, and Stewart Copeland's drumming electric, the band had trouble connecting with the huge audience.
Until a minor mishap occurred. Somebody in the crowd lobbed a bottle of bourbon into Copeland's snare drum, and it went right through the head. While technicians scurried to the scene like ants converging on a cookie crumb, the Police were mired in a nightmare challenge. What do you do when 20 thousand people are out there, and you can't play a note?
Sting pulled through the situation, proving what a remarkable showman he is. " A real supergroup would go off at this point. But we're just assholes, so I guess we'll stay." He picked up his custom bass stick - an upright that looks like an anorexic string bass - and accompanied himself on 'The Yellow Rose Of Texas'. Wearing a black academic robe and flapping his arms from side to side, Sting looked like a mad professor who'd wandered into a punk club. The crowd ate it up, and from that point, they were with the Police 100 percent.
"That's the beautiful part of what the band are doing," Ian Copeland said later. "They managed to bring the atmosphere of a club into Madison Square Garden."
"At the Ritz," Charlie told us later, "the crowd sang along and the sound kept ringing through the room like one big wave. The show was amazing, and because I was close, I could see what Summers was playing, and check out the equipment he was using."
The Police aren't about to return to the club circuit. That's rock & roll. But at least the band are aware of the fact that they come off the strongest in a club situation, and are trying to fit club dates into their high-budget tour schedule. As long as they do, Police fans like Charlie will be waiting in line.
© Circus by Daisann McLane (with thanks to Dietmar)